But lately I've been forced to admit that there is take-out food that is more like a home cooked meal, and it comes from a surprising source - the local supermarket. Further, many higher quality restaurants now offer most of their menus for take-out as well. All this leads to my easiest party suggestion of the year, invite your friends to participate in a pot luck party, but not one where everyone needs to choose recipes, shop for ingredients and cook. This one can be planned entirely at the last minute because your guests purchase their contributions on the way to the party.
Many supermarkets now offer a wide range of healthy, fresh, prepared food ranging from rotisserie chickens, to steamed vegetables, to savory soups. In addition, supermarkets carry artisan quality breads and cheeses which could make a fabulous base for both an elegant party or casual picnic. Fresh salsas, dips, and olives are waiting in the store to be assembled into a tempting first course. You can often walk into a store and find already prepared fruit trays or vegetable trays with a tasty dip ready to accompany them. Salad bars save you the trouble of slicing and dicing fresh produce. And with a simple call ahead to your favorite restaurant, you can walk out with any course ranging from soups to pastries.
In order to make this easy party seem special, you'll need to do a little bit of organizing. But the level of effort is minimal and the results will be worth it.
Tips for Organizing a Take-Out Pot Luck Party
- Invite your guests the day before your party to give them time to think about their favorite place to purchase their assigned item.
- Set your table in the morning before you head out for the day. Pull out serving pieces for the food - nothing detracts from a nice meal like plastic containers.
- Plan a theme for your menu. You don't want one guest to bring goat cheese ravioli while another shows up with stir-fried chicken with hoisin sauce.
- Possible themes could include:
- Diner food
- Southern Food
- California contemporary
- Tell your guests the theme and assign them a specific course. After that, the item purchased is at their discretion.
- The number of courses you plan will depend on your number of guests. These can include appetizers and nibbles; soup; bread; main dish; vegetables/potatoes; fruit or vegetable platter; cheese course; dessert.
- Remember to assign beverages to someone - even if it's your responsibility as hostess.